Leaving the Lyrebird Forest by Gary Crew
Ill. by Julian Laffan. Lothian, 2018. ISBN 9780734418432
(Age: 9-12) Highly recommended. Themes: Lyrebirds, Friendship, Coming of age.
"Are you lonely here?" her mother asked. "Never," Alice said. "Not while I am friends with the lyrebird".
Leaving the Lyrebird Forest is a poignant and lyrical story about friendship, family and growing up in the bush. Alice Dorrit lives with her artist parents in a small house surrounded by bushland. Set in the 1930s, the family live a self-sustaining and simple life. Alice walks three miles to school and her family drive their Model T Ford to the nearby town one hour away to sell their artworks and pick up supplies. When Alice turns three, a young male lyrebird begins to visit, knocking and tapping on her bedroom window. She awakes every second morning to visits by Birdy; Dad builds a platform for him and Alice feeds him grubs and worms. Alice and Birdy build a special relationship; she teaches him to respond to her calls and mimic sounds.
Alice befriends Mr Brown a lonely widower who lives on an adjoining property, and she discovers that he loves the forest and wildlife as much as she does. The mystery of the timing of Birdy's visit is solved as well. As Alice grows up, she knows her future lies in a different direction, and she must leave her family friends and much-loved lyrebird for her future schooling.
Award winning author Gary Crew's beautifully descriptive novel captures the lush forest settings, heart-warming relationships and special bond of Alice and her wild bird. Julian Laffan's impressive woodcuts add depth, dimension and character. Leaving the Lyrebird Forest showcases a wonderful synergy between author and artist.
A wonderful story to share with readers in the Middle Grades with themes of friendship, acceptance, caring for the environment concerns and coming of age.